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Sunday, November 18, 2012

grocery Fun

I have to say, when you’re in charge, groceries can be fun.

Chips, imported Tesco products, peanut butter and jelly, cookies, what’s not to love?

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

window Walking

So, I’ve been in KL over the last couple of days for work matters. Being in the capital, I was pretty interested to scout out some new tech, especially with Microsoft Malaysia having launched Windows 8 last Monday. I’ve been very curious as to how good Windows 8 touch devices would be and what their price points are.

After training on Friday, I was walking around Suria KLCC trying to pass the time. In a spur of the moment, my brain told my feet why not take a walk to Low Yat Plaza? Actually, my transport arrangement needed me to take the LRT to Bangsar in an hour and a half so I was wondering if it be worth it to walk all the way but I decided to do it anyway.

I’d heard about the covered walkway covering the distance between KLCC and Pavillion but I never knew where it was until the day before when a friend showed me.

Going along the elevated walkway, I have to say I’m quite content with it. Generally speaking, its quite spacious. I don’t think a Kancil would have much problem driving through it, or most of it anyway. Also, just as I’ve read and heard, its air-conditioned and makes for a pleasant walk. That said, it isn’t too cold in there, as it’s about room temperature. 

Since the walkway is a confined space and spans a long distance, I guess some people might worry about security. In fairness however, I still think its safer than walking along the street since there are security cameras throughout and security guards at certain intersections. That’s right there are intersections. It splits at certain points as you can get to a few other places from KLCC besides Pavilion, so its good to read the signboards at the intersections if you’re going for the first time.

Fast walking, I reached Pavilion in about 10 minutes or so, which is pretty alright by me. However, because I was rushing for time, I had to fast-walk all the way to Low Yat Plaza as well, which is about a kilometre out from the Pavilion walkway exit/entrance. A lot of people were on the street and unfortunately it was drizzling quite a bit too so I got soaked.

The Windows 8 showcase was on the ground floor so I went in to see which tablets from which OEMs would be available in Malaysia. I already had a good look at the Sony VAIO Duo 11 at the Sony store in KLCC and I was quite impressed so I was hoping for a bit more with the other brands.

Windows 8 @ Low Yat Plaza

There were a number of all-in-one desktops, as well as laptops and ultrabooks running Windows 8 on display but I wasn’t there for those. I was there for the form factors new to the OS, tablets and hybrids.

I was disappointed to find only five tablets/hybrids on the display floor. The first which I had a chance to check out was the Samsung ATIV running Windows 8.

Samsung ATIV Smart PC Pro

Docked to the keyboard, it really looks like an ultrabook. Note that its running Windows 8, not RT (Samsung’s RT offering is the ATIV TAB, which there is no news of here as of yet).

The tablet itself has a large enough 11.6” screen that also comes with a microSD slot, but more importantly there is a USB 3.0 port as well. The keyboard is actually quite a pleasure to type on, which I think will be the case for all tablets with at least an 11 inch display. There are a couple of USB 2.0 ports on the keyboard as well. I can’t remember whether the storage is 64 or 128 GB, in any case, its priced at RM 3,599.00. It comes with a stylus as well, but that wasn’t on display, so I’m curious as to how well it works. Honestly, I’m still rather unsold on how functional styluses are in the first place.

Next up was ASUS’s clone of the Transformer with Windows RT slapped on top of it, the VIVO Tab RT. One thing I’ll say outright is this, because the display is 10.1 inches and its keyboard matches the length of the tablet, its simply not a keyboard people want to type on. Its such a pity as all RT devices come pre-installed with the touch optimised version of Microsoft Office (or more specifically Microsoft Office 2013 Home & Student RT), which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote for no extra cost than the device retail price, which is RM 2,199.00

Sony VAIO Duo 11

Also around, was the first Windows 8 tablet/hybrid that I got my hands on. At 1.3 kg, its definitely not something you’ll want to use without a table-like surface to rest it on nearby. Its not unbearable though, but definitely heavy for the average tablet use. There are a number of reasons for this though.

Firstly, this hybrid device features a built in keyboard that reveals itself as you slide the screen upwards, converting it from a table to laptop layout. I tested the keyboard quite thoroughly with the trial version of Office 2010 Sony installed on it at a Sony Store in KLCC and I was very satisfied. There’re enough space between the keys and while its no desktop keyboard, its not hard to type and mistakes were minimal.

Still, just having a keyboard that doesn’t detach isn’t the only reason why this device is thicker and heavier. The device itself hosts two very important ports I haven’t seen on any other touchscreen device, a full-sized VGA and Ethernet port. These are huge clues that this device is built for business. Imagine that, no need for scrawny expensive adaptors for connecting to an LCD projector. The other things is that in business environments, there are still plenty of offices that do not utilise wireless connections and stick to physical cables, so being able to connect to a LAN cable is a definite plus point. Of course, there are plenty of other ports like USB 3.0, microSD slot and the HDMI port. Also, it comes with a stylus as well.

With 128GB of solid state drive storage, it comes at a price of RM 3,999.00. It’s a hefty price, but it comes to mind that this is more of a laptop rather than a tablet considering what it does. It’s the most tablet-like laptop out there, whereas others seem to be trying to make the most laptop-like tablet.

Acer Iconia W510

The last one I saw was the Acer Iconia W150, which I had read about and seen on Engadget. I was initially impressed with its seemingly simple and light keyboard, but once I saw the small size of the device, I didn’t even bother to play with it, instead just opting to take a photo of it while this guy was trying it out. I was in no mood to try a keyboard that seemed even smaller than the one I tried out on the Asus VIVO Tab RT.

There was one more, a Lenovo RT device, but that was a laptop, not a hybrid or a detachable device so I passed on that. At the time I thought, why would someone create an RT laptop/ultrabook? Then again, I think that’s the way it should be for ultrabooks moving forward, especially since ultrabook users always want something thin and light with long battery life, which is exactly what ARM architecture brings with the RT version of Windows.

My conclusion was that among the devices on display, the winner was surely between the Samsung ATIV Smart PC and Sony VAIO Duo 11. The thing is, both devices don’t come with Office 13 since they’re running on Windows 8 and not Windows RT. Honestly speaking, the VIVO Tab RT would have been an outright winner if it had a bigger screen, which would have meant a wider and better keyboard. In some ways, the OEMs have still left a fair bit to be desired. That’s why I’m still very curious how Surface RT and Surface W8 Pro will be like if they do arrive in Malaysia.

One thing though, I know that the Sony VAIO Duo 11 is selling out in KLCC. That said, I still think the best tablet/hybrid for Windows 8 or even RT is yet to be on sale here. More patience is required. Hopefully things will pick up during the holiday season. Microsoft’s Surface and even Toshiba’s offering seem pretty interesting.

Friday, November 02, 2012

historical Pairs

Some things come in pairs. Unfortunately when just one of the two falls apart it doesn’t work anymore. That goes things like for shoes, skis, earrings, crutches, chopsticks and drumsticks.

Having played drums off and on over the years, I only recall breaking one pair of drumsticks. But somehow over the last 6 months, I suddenly lost two. I had to get one pretty quick too, since I had to play last weekend so I drove down to Malacca town and bought myself the very same model as the first pair I ever had.

Zildjian Travis Barker Artist Series white drumsticks.

I can’t remember exactly when, but I think I bought my first pair at TheGuitarStore at Desa Sri Hartamas when I was 16 I think. I was only just beginning to teach myself to play drums and that was the time I was quite into pop-punk, namely Blink 182 and Yellowcard. While clearly not the most technically proficient, Travis from Blink 182’s the reason I got into drums. I always liked the way he played live. Most people that don’t like Blink 182 still like Travis anyway (because he’s got skill, that’s not something people contend with).

It’s a very heavy yet solid pair. In fact I still have my the first pair I bought somewhere, but unfortunately one of the sticks is a bit bent because I never carried it around in a proper stick bag, just in my school bag, and obviously it wasn’t tall enough even if I fit it in diagonally so it changed shape a little over time. Anyway, being a heavy pair, just a light hit creates a very loud sound. Even the tip is very round and dense, so just simple rolls on the snare get a lot of volume too. The only thing that I didn’t really like at first was the weight of course, but you get over it after a while. Oh, and of course I love the fact that it’s white with the blue and red wording, hahaha!

Still, after a while I felt I needed to get something not so heavy, or just light really. That’s when I got my second pair, which I also bought about 6 months ago, which snapped barely a month back:

The tip broke off, didn’t even notice until afterwards.

While getting into the whole world of drums, a few friends introduced the names of famous drummers to me and although I can’t recall, one of them was probably Dennis Chambers. He looks so stiff playing drums, but nobody thinks so once he gets going. Its honestly quite funny to watch in a way because he looks stiff, but yet he can play really fast really accurately. Then again, his playing is quite ‘straight’ so to speak, but he is a very good drummer nonetheless.

More importantly I really loved his drumsticks because they were one of the most lightweight but still dense. I just liked the feel of it I guess. Out of all the pairs I’ve used, I think I’ve always felt the most comfortable with this one. The only thing was, like the photo tells, it’s thing so it wears out pretty quickly. Even the tip wore out pretty quick.

After a while, I got another pair from another brand, and was my longest lasting pair up until 3 weeks ago.

It suddenly split while I hit the left crash cymbal and saw it fly past my head to the back.

Out of all the drummers I’ve seen play live or from videos on the web, Dave Weckl’s definitely my favourite. I don’t know the exact genre of music he plays, although I’d suppose its somewhere in between jazz, funk and other music like that. There’s a lot of variety in the beats he plays, even in the volume of his playing. There’s plenty of things he can do I’ll never be able to do, in some ways its like watching the perfect artist. That’s quite an exaggeration, I know. I’m just saying how it feels like.

Looking back, I think I only got this pair because I thought it’d be cool to use the same pair of sticks Dave Weckl did. Out of the three pairs, this one’s actually my third choice, because while still a solid pair, its thick but doesn’t feel dense. Because of that, I never really enjoyed the feel of it. Still as I said, it lasted me a very long time, until a few weeks ago. I even have a video of me using it during Euphonious 2010 and I know I had that pair way before then, so that shows how old it was.

So, it seems I’m back with what I started with. I guess I thought it’d be interesting to jot down this little bit of history to close the loop.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

disney Wars

It must’ve been one of the best kept secrets of the year. Who would’ve thought George Lucas would sell off the beloved Star Wars franchise? On the surface, its definitely funny hearing or reading Disney and Star Wars in the same sentence. Disney has been pretty aggressive over the years, acquiring Pixar (the makers of the immensely awesome Toy Story franchise), so adding Star Wars to its portfolio certainly strengthens it a lot more. What took us by surprise was that Disney confirmed a Star Wars: Episode VII and two more subsequent films would be released beginning 2015.

All this is very surprising, seeing how relatively stagnant the franchise has been since Episode III. I first read about this on CNET, and then later on other sites like IGN and Geektyrant. It’s even made its way to CNN

Everyone’s been taken by surprise and there’s plenty of reaction. Some people have been less than amused they’ll have to think of Disney whenever they think of Star Wars, since they would probably rather have Mickey Mouse sliced by a lightsabre than him wielding one. Along that note, I’ve read a comment saying George Lucas’s is a sell out. On the other hand, you have people like me who are happy that we’ll FINALLY have a new Star Wars movie, which I think most of us thought would never happen (although I am curious how the new movie will turn out under Disney).

Mickey Jedi and Minnie LeiaMany fans don’t want Star Wars to suddenly turn out Goofy (pun intended).

I suppose George Lucas is thinking of moving on to other things if he isn’t calling it a day with the film industry. Similar to how Bill Gates left Microsoft at a time it was still successful, he probably feels its time to transition Star Wars over to someone else. Its quite a u-turn from when I read that he had plenty of projects within Lucasfilm to work on last year, maybe all that was just a smokescreen for this big change.

What a lot of people are wondering is, what does this mean for Star Wars? Can Lucasfilm and Disney really be a good fit?

I myself find the claim that they can make something good by 2015 a little dubious. Can Disney really get something up and about for a release then? Then again, you never know if there have been existing storyboards and scripts for the additional films that Lucas has kept away for years. Speaking chronologically, the last story of Star Wars was done in the 1980s, so there’s been plenty of time to think out sequels. Besides, if they started now, they have two whole years to film it.

There’s no real way to know what will come out of it until we see an actual movie at the cinema, but I think there’s good potential. After all, its not like the people who made Mickey Mouse will be making the movie, it’ll still be Lucasfilm under the Disney umbrella, being funded and maybe given some extra expertise from the Disney folks. Its just like how Toy Story 3 is made by Pixar, but under Disney as well.

To me, all these questions about how good can Disney make the new movies doesn’t matter half as much as the question that I have.

What’s the new Star Wars movie going to be about?

Luke and Darth Vader duel on Death Star
What comes next after this?

Will it still have something to do with Skywalker or will it be something totally different? That’s what I’m most curious about. We’ll probably have plenty of plot rumours coming in 2014. Now, can something that comes in 2015 better what first arrived in 1977?